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The advent of human-like virtual agents

The Manila Times logo The Manila Times 12/11/2022 Tony Maghirang

VOCTIV, a voice artificial intelligence (AI) solution, helps businesses process both inbound and outbound calls. It allows any business to build fully autonomous, AI-powered contact centers with virtual agents capable of holding sophisticated talks and mimicking emotions.

Since 2020, Voctiv has been operating in Southeast Asia, i.e., in Indonesia, Vietnam and in the Philippines. In the Philippines, virtual agents speak both English and Tagalog and they understand a mix of languages, i.e., Taglish = Tagalog + English.

Alexander Kuznetsov, co-founder of Voctiv, discusses with The Manila Times how Voctiv technology is relevant for the support service, sales department, collection and marketing surveys of customers of any business.

The Manila Times (TMT): Please provide details on the company behind Voctiv, its development and current status.

Alexander Kuznetsov (AKU): Voctiv was founded in 2018 in the US. The company works with major telecom, retail, service companies, banks, and in the public sector in Europe, the US and MENA markets.

From 2020 Voctiv operates in Southeast Asia: in Indonesia, Vietnam and from 2022 — in the Philippines. Here, in the Philippines, we have a team of about 10 employees, including script-designers, content-makers, speakers and testers. Wherever we open a new office we employ local staff. In the Philippines, our team consists of Filipinos — they know the different dialects of the country best. Virtual agents in the Philippines are already tested to understand Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano and Hiligaynon.

TMT: Can you elaborate on Voctiv as a product (its inception and development)? What business problems does it address? What are the specific advantages in using Voctiv compared to competing digital assistants?

AKU: Based on our research, AI technology boosts conversion rate up to 20 percent and saves 2 to 4 times on the cost of a lead. Virtual agents communicate 24/7 without days off, take no holidays or vacations and work according to the best script. With the use of AI technology, companies could scale their support service and their sales and collection departments. Also, virtual assistants help to do common tasks that employees don't have enough time for and could save employees up to 50 percent of their time.

Our main advantage in this market is we're indistinguishable from a human voice. Generally, contact centers tend to use synthetic voice — a computer-generated speech that is not adaptable to the conversation. This technology is cheaper to make, but overall does not prove to be profitable: Responders prefer talking to a human rather than a bot. Voctiv technology is not based on synthetic voice. Our AI agents understand natural speech and could keep up with the conversation flow. Thus, clients communicate with virtual agents as if they were communicating with human agents.

TMT: How does Voctiv help improve productivity or even improve revenue? Will Voctiv require special equipment or IT systems to be in place for maximum benefit? Will its installation be affordable for small businesses?

AKU: Contact Center AI scales fast and easy. It could strengthen both a call center of 15 people and of 1,000 employees. For instance, we could unload call centers during busy periods (e.g., holidays) or unforeseen situations by using voice-AI that is able to handle more than 10 thousand calls at the same time. It would be impossible for human contact centers to hold this many conversations during the same amount of time. Also, it is rather hard to expand human contact centers because unlike the work of virtual agents, one needs to train and control the work of human agents.

There is no need for special equipment or IT systems to install our software. Companies do not have to own any special equipment. We connect our software to a communication provider that could make phone calls and securely save all the information on the cloud server. This makes it especially profitable and convenient for small businesses. In the case of banks and retail companies who require added data protection, we install our software on their own dedicated hard servers.

TMT: We understand Voctiv is essentially for contact center operations, but will it still be useful also for general office use? What is the nature of the engagement with Voctiv support services?

AKU: Although call centers are our main focus, contact center AI does not only help in the work of call centers. It is a platform for communication in any area. For example, a personal assistant could answer calls and record conversations. It is useful for those who could not answer every call. We can also offer personal virtual assistants that help with internal operations, i.e., connecting colleagues between different departments.

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